Berkman fellow Wendy Seltzer leads the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse "Chilling Effects" refers to the deterrent effect of legal threats or posturing, largely cease and desist letters independent of litigation, on lawful conduct. The Chilling Effects clearinghouse will catalogue cease and desist notices and present analyses of their claims to help recipients resist the chilling of legitimate activities (as well as understand when their activities are unlawful). The project's core, this database of letters and FAQ-style analyses is supplemented by legal backgrounders, news items, and pointers to statutes and caselaw. Periodic "weather reports" will sum up the legal climate for online activity.
The project invites recipients and senders of cease and desist notices to send them to a central point for analysis, and to browse the website for background information and explanation of the laws they are charged with violating or enforcing. Clinical law students will prepare issue-spotting analyses of the letters in the question-and-answer style of FAQs, which we will post alongside the letters in an online database. The site aims to educate C&D recipients about their legal rights. Site visitors may search the database by subject area or keyword.
"The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse collects and analyzes legal complaints about online activity, helping Internet users to know their rights and understand the law. Chilling Effects welcomes submission of letters from individuals and from Internet service providers and hosts. These submissions enable us to study the prevalence of legal threats and allow Internet users to see the source of content removals.
Chilling Effects aims to support lawful online activity against the chill of unwarranted legal threats. We are excited about the new opportunities the Internet offers individuals to express their views, parody politicians, celebrate favorite stars, or criticize businesses, but concerned that not everyone feels the same way. Study to date suggests that cease and desist letters often silence Internet users, whether or not their claims have legal merit. The Chilling Effects project seeks to document that "chill" and inform C&D recipients of their legal rights in response."